Social Networking Pushes Solar Into Neighborhoods


On Monday, I posted an article about residents pushing their local officials to tighten restrictions on solar PV installations in neighborhoods. This attitude is sometimes referred to as NIMBY, or “Not-In-My-Backyard”, and seems to pervade neighborhoods when a socially responsible action is taken, or sometimes required, at the expense of an individual’s pleasantries (e.g., a nice view).

How cynical of me. While it is my contention that the recent retaliation against rooftop solar in New Jersey stems from a few disgruntled property owners that are upset with PSE&G’s PV pole mount program, I have done little to take note of the positive “contagious” forces of residential solar that have led several states (i.e., New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio) well past their original benchmarks to boost solar capacity. Several other columnists and bloggers, such as Sami Grover of Tree Hugger, have written about the influence of peer-to-peer marketing.

As Grover pointed out, whether it provides cover for being the lefty-green activist of the neighborhood, or it simply opens their minds to the benefits of rooftop solar, people tend to buy into an unfamiliar technology when people they trust do the same. What this also seems to imply is that solar, a rapidly growing concept, still has a lot of ground to cover in terms of gaining consumer trust. Perhaps that’s why sharing tangible benefits with neighbors through social media and online monitoring displays has proved to be a very effective tool to ramp-up solar adoption in a particular neighborhood. These personalized media outlets have mimicked tried and tested programs like this one, which encouraged behavioral changes in energy usage simply by comparing one household’s electricity bill to that of their neighbor’s.

It did occur to me as I was reading some of these great articles that similar efforts – granted on a smaller scale and to less success (so far) – document the detractors of residential solar. Just a few outspoken disgruntled opponents of PSE&G’s PV pole mount program have put neighborhood solar on the defensive in town council assemblies, turning several neighbors against the idea of installing solar, rather than supporting it. So, moral of the story: let’s keep sharing solar success stories and push your neighbors and friends to look into leasing or purchasing panels! You could even use peer-to-peer marketing to create a community discount program like Solarize Mass

Leave a Comment